Posted in Writings

Miscellaneous One-Shots

I have a whole document full of these tiny stories that are so small it’s easier to contain them somewhere than give them all their own home. Here are a few little fluffs for your reading pleasure. I think the only thing you need to know for context of the first one here is that Kieran is an Elf and slightly magic and can make injured people feel slightly better by touching them.


From the corner of the booth in the breakfast nook, Kieran watched over the top of his book as Cyrus made coffee. He knew Cyrus hadn’t felt well all day – he had the little crease between his eyebrows Elian got when he was pretending he didn’t have a headache. But he didn’t yet know him well enough to tell if that came from a concerning reason or was just a random nuisance.

Coffee in hand, Cyrus slid into the other half of the booth. But he put the mug down and got close enough to lean his forehead against Kieran’s shoulder.

Kieran very carefully did not react to this new development, reading a few pages in silence to let Cyrus be still. Then he asked, “Feeling better?”

“Yeah, actually,” said Cyrus.

“Something going on you want to talk about?”

“Not really. I just didn’t sleep much last night.”

That could still be concerning, but he didn’t sound upset about it. “I’m not sure caffeine before bed is the way to fix that tonight.”

Cyrus just chuckled as he sat up. But that wouldn’t do, so Kieran put down his book and reached to lightly press his thumb into that crease between Cyrus’ eyebrows, knowing the direct touch would help more. He was rewarded with some rapid surprised blinking as tension drained from muscles beneath his fingers.

Then he put an arm around Cyrus’ shoulders to keep him there, picking his book back up with his other hand. Cyrus grabbed his coffee mug, holding on with both hands and sighing a bit as he relaxed into Kieran’s side. Good. Might as well do what he could to counteract that caffeine before Cyrus tried to sleep.


“Will you let me drive you home?” Jared asked over the noise of the soccer crowd around them. He wore his eager puppy dog face. It used to have no effect on Grace, but it was getting harder to resist. She thought continued exposure ought to have the opposite effect.

Still, she wrinkled her nose. “Not if it means hanging out at McDonald’s with your whole team first.” She’d done that once. Once was enough.

“I’ll take you home first and meet them there,” he offered.

Grace hesitated, then agreed, “I’ll see you at your car.”

“Thanks! I’ll hurry.”

He wouldn’t, but she knew he thought he would. Grace took her time squeezing through the crowd and finding Jared’s car in the parking lot. There she leaned against the trunk, crossing her arms against the night and shivering. She’d come to this game by herself, and she knew Jared meant well trying to save her a walk alone in the cold night, but she would be warmer walking than waiting for him.

Who knew why she let him think it helped.

He appeared before the parking lot had become entirely devoid of cars, warm in his letterman jacket, duffle flung over his shoulder. “Thanks for coming,” he said, beaming at her.

“You did great,” Grace said awkwardly. By now he had taught her enough about soccer to understand what he did, but she still didn’t think her compliments should carry any weight.

“Because I knew you were watching.”

“That’s a lie,” she scoffed.

He shrugged one shoulder. “It’s not the only reason, but I think about it.” Before she could overthink that too much, he dumped the bag on the trunk and tugged at her arms so he could take her hands. Then exclaimed, “Grace, your hands are freezing!” He lifted them to his neck, covering them with his own. He was hot and sweaty and he rubbed his thumb against her wrist and something in Grace’s chest fluttered.

She didn’t know what to say. To Jared’s credit, he just smiled at her fondly instead of giving the knowing smirk he could have used as he said, “Let’s get you somewhere warm, yeah?”


Space germs hit everyone eventually. Even Kieran had dealt with a few illnesses his space-and-time-traveling friends’ immune systems were used to and his wasn’t. He was only surprised Quizzer’s newest companion hadn’t succumbed sooner.

Not that Elian acknowledged being sick. He went about his day apparently unfazed, but Kieran saw the pinched crease between his eyebrows and the extra pallor beneath the slight tan he’d begun to develop. So Kieran decided to go about his day unobtrusively in Elian’s general vicinity.

Quizzer noticed, too. Kieran saw her notice, saw her notice him loitering, saw her agree with a small nod that he had this one handled.

Elian was doing research on the console computer with Kieran reading nearby when Elian’s eyes went unfocused and he started to collapse where he stood. Kieran leaped from the couch and just stopped him from hitting the floor.

Elian’s eyes fluttered open as Kieran sat down and adjusted his grip to something hopefully more comfortable for them both. “Kieran?” he mumbled.

“You know,” said Kieran, “I am the undisputed expert at pretending I’m not sick, but you’re not bad yourself.”

“I’m not sick.”

“Sure you are. You’re also a liar. I’ll allow it today because the space germs are clouding your judgment.”

“The what?”

“Germs. They’re these tiny organisms that cause-”

“I know what germs are, Kieran.”

“Oh, okay. I really thought ‘space’ was already in your vocabulary, so…”

“Shut up.”

Elian closed his eyes again, and Kieran used the moment to run a hand through his hair and subtly check for a fever. He didn’t feel one yet, but he suspected it would come.

“Are you ever going to let me up?” Elian asked.

“Yes. To go to bed. Then I’m going to make you tea and you’re going to sleep and you’re going to feel better.”

“Do I have any choice in the matter?”

“No.”

“Fine.” Elian shifted, and his head resting against Kieran’s shoulder felt almost purposeful. “But if you’re insisting, I think it’s only fair to make you carry me.”

Kieran gathered him closer, prepared to do just that. “Be careful what you wish for.”


“Eric.”

“What.”

“At least open your eyes.”

He did and found Mia sitting on the floor by the couch, her face inches from his. “Yes?” he croaked.

“You’ve been sick so long I have to go to the grocery store,” she complained.

“It’s been two days.”

“Yes. And we’ve run out of milk because our poor children, fending for themselves, spilled a whole gallon of it trying to make cereal for breakfast.”

“I was in the kitchen at the time,” he reminded her. “I cleaned it up. This happens whether I’m sick or not.”

She ignored this. “Tristan is taking a nap. Ariadne is Not. Do you want me to take her with me?”

Eric looked around Mia at his daughter, who had blocks spread across the entire living room floor. Those blocks seemed to multiply every time one of the kids dumped them out of their box. “You don’t need to do that.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m not that sick, Mia. We’ll be fine.”

“On your own head be it.” She leaned in to kiss his nose, and Eric poked hers in return. On her way by, Mia stooped to hug Ariadne and told her, “Take good care of your daddy while I’m gone, okay? He doesn’t feel good.”

“I will,” Ariadne promised, all seriousness for a moment.

When Mia had gone, Ariadne dashed off to her bedroom. Eric yawned and waited, prepared to remind her to put the blocks away before she spread out some other toy, but she returned with a stack of books.

She paused by the couch to look him over solemnly, then climbed up to join him, making Eric scoot as far back as he could to give her room. “I can’t read much right now, Ariadne,” he said, his scratchy voice proving the point.

“You’re not ‘posed to,” she said impatiently. “Mommy said to take care of you.” And she opened one of the books on her own lap and started reading aloud.

She couldn’t actually do that yet. Not really. But some books they’d read so much she had them memorized.

Eric was going to cry, which would not do good things for his already congested nose. He hadn’t realized she’d picked up on Mia reading to him when he was sick.

“Ariadne,” he said when she paused between books, “you’re the best daughter.”

She nodded in satisfaction, then followed it up with, “You’re ‘posed to be quiet. I’m reading.”

He could hardly do anything else.

Posted in Christianity, Writings

Crosses

Clouds lie low over a field, thick and dark and rolling. Though they leech all color from the grass, rain never falls.

Spread across that grass: crosses. They lie flat, in ever-widening circles, every direction I turn, ready for victims.

An impossible task. But I try again.

The condemned squirm. They howl. They reason. I kneel on skin, try to pin them down, but they twist away or the hammer slips or they fight me off or I slide to the grass in defeat and let them go. I’ve never gotten one to stay.

But this time surer hands encircle mine. Another more solid than I adds his weight. The nails drive true, and when I glance back at our work, they remain on their crosses.

At last we stop. Sweat coats my hair, slides down my back. My hands ache. As I catch my breath, the crosses around me begin to lift, dropping into waiting holes in the ground, a jarring thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk.

The ground quivers, stills.

I spin slowly.

They hang there, bare and exposed, and I know them so well. I recognize their jealousies and greeds and longings and idols and a hundred other impurities.

They look like me.

And still they squirm and howl and reason and it’s awful and tears drip down my face but he is merciful. He breaks legs, sparing me the hours this could take. Slowly they fall limp, lifeless limbs hanging from nails as his once did.

And I am new. I stand taller. I smile as he takes my hand to lead me away. His clothes shine as they always have, and I reflect his light, dressed now in blood-cleansed white.

I don’t look back.

Sunlight breaks through heavy clouds.

 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:24

Posted in Writings

Fight for Us Together

A few years ago, I shared one of my short stories about some siblings growing up at their dad’s questionable military school, Hold as Long as You Like, but I realized I never shared the sequel. They’re all grown up now. Ash has a job as security for a wealthy businessman. Maggie is their dog, and I think that’s the only unexplained thing you need to know.

 

With his backpack looped over both shoulders, Blaze moseyed across his college campus. His last class let out early, so he didn’t have to hurry to the next one today.

His route took him through the lobby of the main building, where a larger-than-usual crowd clustered around the TV that constantly played there. Glancing at the screen curiously, Blaze stopped in surprise at a picture of Gavin on the news. He edged closer to hear.

“…less than an hour ago,” the newscaster was saying, her tone concerned but business. “Local millionaire Gavin Reid was visiting Chicago on business when it happened.”

The screen cut to footage of Gavin on the front steps of a building, shaking someone’s hand, with Ash beside him, alert, watching. Ash’s eyes caught something, and he tensed, already moving. Then the crack of a gunshot and Ash shielding Gavin and Blaze was 14 again, watching his unshakable older brother crumple to the ground.

Back to the newscaster and the picture of Gavin.

“We have no information yet on the assailant. Ash Harker, part of Mr. Reid’s security team, has been hospitalized-”

Class forgotten, Blaze ran.

 

He stopped first at the room where Kai typically waited when he drove Blaze to school. Kai jumped to his feet the moment Blaze burst in. “What’s wrong?” he demanded.

“Ash,” Blaze choked out. “It was on the news. Someone shot at Gavin, and Ash… All I heard was that he’s in the hospital.”

Kai’s friend Alex was already shoving Kai’s books and phone into his bag. He held it out to Kai, who took it and said numbly, “Star. We need to get Star.”

Blaze nodded. “She’s next. You were closer.”

“Anything I can do?” Alex asked. Kai looked at him and shrugged helplessly, so Alex gave him a shove toward the door. “Go get your sister.”

Blaze rushed toward the car, Kai’s footsteps echoing behind his, not slowing when Kai said his name. But then Kai grabbed him in a tight hug and Blaze had to stop, had to turn and hold on and hide from the video clip playing on loop behind his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Kai said.

Blaze couldn’t reply. He didn’t need to.

A moment later, they were running again.

 

“I’ll drive,” said Blaze.

“You sure?”

“I can’t sit still anyway.”

Kai handed over the keys.

But Blaze also had to call Star, and even as he started the engine, he was dialing the pet store where she worked, phone pressed to his ear, whipping out of the parking space.

“Pet Supplies Plus.”

“Hi, can I talk to Star? This is Blaze.”

“Sure, just a minute.”

The minute felt like forever, but he didn’t even get off campus before Star answered, ending the hold music. “Hey, Blaze, what’s up?”

He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t. He could feel Kai’s eyes on him and almost handed over the phone, but instead he swallowed and forced words out. “Hey, Star… sweetie… have you seen the news?”

“No?” He could hear the spike of panic in her voice.

“Don’t look. You don’t want to. But… Ash is in the hospital. Someone shot at Gavin, and Ash got hurt getting him out of the way. That’s all we know.”

Silence.

“Kai and I are on our way over there to pick you up.”

“Yeah. Okay.”

“I love you.”

“Love you.”

Then Blaze did hand his phone to Kai. “Let me know if there’s anything from Gavin.”

 

When they pulled up to the pet store, Star was already outside and talking on her phone. She flung herself into the backseat, and Blaze stomped on the gas. “It’s Gavin,” she whispered, sliding to the middle and leaning forward between the front seats. Listening to Star’s tense side of the conversation, which told him nothing, Blaze drove, heading toward home, more from habit than decision.

Finally Star hung up. Kai turned. Blaze kept his eyes on the road.

“Ash is alive, but not awake,” Star said, and Blaze’s hands clenched tighter around the steering wheel. “Gavin’s okay. They caught the shooter but haven’t told Gavin anything about him yet.”

“Why didn’t he call us?” Blaze demanded, his anger pulsing in his fingertips and jaw.

“This was the first chance he had. I’d already tried to call him three times before he called me. It really hasn’t been that long since it happened.”

For Star’s sake, if nothing else, he didn’t want to be angry with Gavin, so Blaze shoved that away to think about later, hopefully more objectively. “We need to get out there,” he said.

“Gavin is working on plane tickets. He’s going to send me the information as soon as he has it.”

The airport was a ways away, and they were low on gas. Blaze turned right at the next stop sign to head to the nearest station.

“What about Maggie?” Kai asked.

Blaze swore and bit his lip. Who did they know who would take care of the dog?

Anything I can do?

“Text Alex.”

Kai nodded and reached for his phone.

“Has anyone called Milla?” Star asked.

“Not that I know of,” said Blaze.

She sighed heavily. “I will.” But her phone vibrated before she could dial, and she took a minute to read the message. “Next flight to Chicago leaves in two hours,” she announced. Blaze whipped into the gas station and leaped out. They were going to make that plane.

 

It took two miserable plane rides, one miserable layover, and one miserable taxi ride to reach the hospital. Gavin, surrounded by multiple police officers, met them at the entrance, and Star ran to him, hugging him fiercely. Relief over his safety had been battling with fear for Ash since Blaze’s phone call, and for this moment, relief overwhelmed everything.

But before she even let go of him, Gavin brought the fear crashing back, saying loud enough for them all to hear, “He’s still in surgery. No news since I last texted you.”

Star sagged a little since Gavin could hold her up. All this rushing just to wait more. She’d known this would happen, but she desperately wanted her brother, just to see him breathing for herself.

“Did you hear anything about the shooter?” she asked as she stepped back.

Gavin shrugged. “Someone high and ranting on and on about the horrors of capitalism and wealth.”

Star rubbed his arm.

Gavin and the police officers led them to a small waiting room, one with locked doors, not open to the public. Two couches in an unfortunate green, a silent TV mounted on the wall, no windows. Kai curled up in the corner of one couch. Gavin collapsed on the other. Blaze paced.

They all needed her attention. Kai hadn’t spoken since asking about Maggie. Blaze had to be reliving the last time he’d waited in a hospital for Ash. But Star had been with them the whole long trip, and she didn’t know what else to do for them right now, so she sat beside Gavin.

“I’m so sorry,” he told her. “I know this is why I hired him, but nothing like this was actually supposed to happen. I was supposed to just be paranoid and ridiculous and…”

When he choked over his words, crying, to Star’s horror, she cupped her hands around his face. “This is not your fault. I’m not upset with you. Whatever happens, I won’t be upset with you.” Star gently traced her thumbs across Gavin’s skin. “Ash protected you because he cares about you, not because it’s his job. It’s okay to be grateful.”

Gavin didn’t say anything else, just put his arms around her, and Star was glad, because she had run out of words.

 

Blaze hadn’t paced in the tiny waiting room long before he escaped to pace the hallways instead. This was not a day to be still, and he’d forced it long enough on planes. It killed him that he could do nothing helpful. He at least had to walk.

But when he found himself staring out windows at Chicago but seeing the city around the hospital where he’d done this before, he made himself go back, stopping at a vending machine along the way and collecting a whole horde of candy bars.

Back in the waiting room, Star and Gavin talked in low voices, intent enough on each other to make Blaze more jealous than he wanted to be. He worked hard to be okay with sharing his sister. Usually he managed it. Today was not usually.

Sitting beside Kai, Blaze silently offered his candy selection. Kai took a Snickers. Blaze opened one, too, but he didn’t eat it, just stared at it. Stared until he whispered, “I’m really glad I’m not alone this time.”

Kai looked over and then put an arm around him, gripping tight, and Blaze closed his eyes and took a bite of his Snickers.

 

Kai expected Ash to look a mess. That didn’t mean he was prepared for it.

Ash tried to be himself. Kai could see the pained, exhausting efforts. He insisted on careful hugs. He said encouraging things. He told Gavin it wasn’t his fault before Gavin said a word.

But his words slurred, came too slowly. A few sentences seemed to do him in.

There weren’t enough chairs in the room. Gavin fixed that. Kai curled up in one and left it as little as possible over the next few days.

Blaze ran errands, and sometimes he made Star go with him, fetching food from the cafeteria, finding nearby stores for toothbrushes and clothes and anything else someone decided they needed. The two of them coaxed Gavin into attending a few of the scheduled meetings that brought him to Chicago in the first place. They met Milla at the airport, took her back when she had to leave. They didn’t get Kai farther than a few short walks up and down the hall. He didn’t want to be in that room with Ash a shadow of himself, but he didn’t want to be anywhere else either.

There were new cuts down his arms.

He knew he worried everyone. He tried to care. He couldn’t quite manage it.

For the first couple days, Ash mostly slept. He would wake up for a little while when the pain meds started to wear off, groggy and hurting, until the next dose knocked him out again. Kai knew Ash hated it, he could tell in Ash’s short bursts of awareness, but he’d also listened to the doctor’s list of important organs the bullet hit, and he knew Ash’s body needed the relief.

But wounds began to heal, and the doctors began to ease up on the drugs, and Ash began to look alert when he was awake.

One of the first times it happened, Kai was alone in the room, on his phone, scrolling through his texts from Alex. His friend kept sending him pictures of Maggie, and someday he would have to figure out how to tell Alex how much he appreciated it.

“Hey, Kai,” said Ash.

The phone clattered to the floor as Kai sprang to Ash’s side. “You’re awake.”

“Yeah, I think so.” Ash reached toward Kai and caught his wrist, and Kai let his own fingers curl around Ash’s wrist, suddenly grateful for the new hoodie Blaze had bought him because the hospital was freezing. Ash didn’t need to see his arms right now. “You look as bad as I do,” Ash told him, trying to smile.

Kai had seen a mirror lately; Ash had not. “I definitely don’t.”

“Are you okay?” Ash asked.

“Not really.” Kai sat on the edge of the bed. “But you’re more important right now.”

Squeezing Kai’s wrist, Ash said, “I love you.”

Kai didn’t try very hard to fight the tears that formed at that.

He stayed where he was, holding on to his brother, not talking much, until a nurse arrived with another dose of painkillers. And then he still stayed while Ash lost his fight to stay awake. And a while longer, because he could.

 

Ash wanted to go home.

He wanted to sleep when he chose to.

He wanted to see Milla. Technically he had, and he’d supposedly talked to her multiple times, but he only remembered smelling her perfume and her soft lips pressed lightly to his.

He wanted his siblings to look less traumatized.

Even before any doctor told him what was going on, he had known this was worse than last time just from seeing Blaze’s face. Star later told him Blaze saw the footage of the shooting, alone and unprepared, and Ash still needed to get Blaze to talk about that.

Right now none of them were around. With Ash awake and able to add his encouragement, Star and Blaze finally talked Kai into leaving the hospital for some fresh air. But they left Gavin so Ash wouldn’t be alone.

With the lap desk that went most places he did, Gavin was plowing through some of his endless important paperwork. But the pinched lines between his eyebrows and the white knuckles clenched around his pen weren’t things Ash saw often. He didn’t think they came from the paperwork.

“Gavin?” he said.

Gavin started and his head shot up. “You need anything?” he asked.

Ash shook his head. “I just wanted to tell you… I’m so glad you’re not hurt.” He’d been trying not to think about the moment of the shooting, because even now, remembering the rush of fear for Gavin when he spotted that gun made him nauseous.

Gavin’s eyes went wide. “You’re… You’re glad I’m not hurt? When you almost died?”

“It’s worth it,” said Ash simply.

“It’s not. Your family is-”

“Important,” Ash interrupted. “And you’re important, too. You’re my best friend and I love you.” He didn’t know exactly when the short list of people he would get in the way of a bullet for had started to grow, but Gavin had made the list even before Milla. Ash had known that long before this incident. Apparently he hadn’t filled Gavin in.

Gavin stared, mouth agape, eyes suspiciously wet. Putting his paperwork aside, he stood, paced closer, away, closer again. At last he reached to take Ash’s hand, awkward but determined. “Thank you,” he said hoarsely. “I hoped I might be finding a friend that day I emailed you, but I never could have expected such a great one. I… love you, too.”

Ash smiled and squeezed Gavin’s hand before letting go. “For the record,” he said, “I am also relieved that I didn’t die,” and Gavin laughed.

 

Home felt good, and Blaze could tell he was starting to relax. Maggie had attacked all of them with love and was now glued to Kai’s side. Milla had come by before they arrived to make sure they had food and things were relatively clean. She stayed to greet Ash with hugs and tears before she left to let them rest.

Ash collapsed into bed the moment Milla was gone, exhausted even though he’d slept through most of the flight home. He would still need a million doctor appointments, but all the doctors in Chicago said he was recovering well, and Blaze hadn’t seen any reason not to believe them.

Star said they should leave Ash alone. Blaze listened for a while. But he needed a nap, too. Besides, if Ash really wanted left alone, he could have used one of the extra bedrooms.

They still had bunk beds. They could have spread out in the other rooms, and occasionally it happened, but mostly Blaze didn’t see the point. He felt safer with his siblings close by, and obviously he was not the only one.

Ash usually slept on a top bunk, so right now he was asleep in Star’s spot. Blaze didn’t make any particular effort to be quiet as he entered the room, and Ash stirred and woke. Blaze felt a little guilty, but mostly relieved; one of the worst parts of the hospital stay had been watching his brother who heard everything sleep through so much noise.

“Blaze?” Ash mumbled.

“Sorry,” said Blaze. “Go back to sleep.”

“You okay?”

He knew better than to try to lie to Ash about that. But right now, as he climbed into his bunk and hugged a pillow, it didn’t feel like a lie to say, “Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.”

“I’m glad,” said Ash, and Blaze smiled as he settled in to sleep.

Posted in Writings

Lost My Place

Storytime today. This one is from a setup where characters are mythological creatures or the like.

Kieran read. Lina listened.

He started bringing books when he found out she hadn’t seen a new one in centuries. She could not take them into the library she guarded to keep while he was gone, so he read them to her instead. She didn’t mind; the books gave them words when they were too shy to find their own.

They sat at the edge of the forest, as far as she could go from the library, beneath the welcoming shade of an ancient oak in the hot summer afternoon. Heat and itchy grass were not her favorite things. She could have stayed intangible and not felt them. But having Kieran around made Lina want to feel real again. She’d gotten in the habit of letting herself touch things when he was there.

That gave her moments like today when their hands ended up side by side in the grass, just touching. When it first happened, she lost track of the story, and not only because Kieran stuttered.

But neither of them moved away, and Kieran read on.

She could have stayed like that forever. But the unwelcome sense of an intruder made her jump.

“Someone’s here,” she said quietly. Kieran had sat up, and she didn’t know if he’d reacted to her reaction or heard something himself. The newcomer had entered her territory on the other side of the library, but she’d long ago lost track of how normal senses worked. She sighed and slid her hand atop Kieran’s, letting her fingers trail across the back of his hand as she stood. “I’ll go deal with them.”

“Be careful,” he said.

“I will.”

And she disappeared.

She always knew when someone arrived at the library, even if she was asleep. And she had to talk to them. If she didn’t, she got sick and miserable; she knew, she’d tried resisting. If they failed to answer her riddles correctly, she could ignore their presence if they showed up again, but newcomers always required her attention.

She’d had many years to test out the nuances of the magic that held her to this place.

The man she found circling her library was a familiar sort; a travel-worn scholar, maybe an alchemist, greed gleaming in his eyes as he anticipated all the knowledge he would surely gain in mere minutes. He carried a gun and prowled like a hunter, searching for the guardian. She never knew exactly what they expected to find, but she heard bits and pieces of the rumors that circulated in the world, and they never quite expected her.

She sighed inwardly before reappearing just enough to look solid, asking quietly, “Who comes to my library?”

He jumped and spun to face her, peering through the bright sunlight. “Why, you’re just a girl,” he said, a smirk growing on his face as he lowered the gun.

“Why are you here?” she asked.

He straightened and cleared his throat, proclaiming importantly, “I wish for access to the Library.”

“Then first you must answer my riddles.”

It went the way it always did. Few people missed the first riddle. This man made it further than most, but not to the last question, the one nobody had ever answered.

But like so many, when he failed, he got angry. He pulled on the library’s door and kicked at it and swore, but nothing budged. Then he rounded on her and raised his gun. Long ago she would have flinched, but not now. “You cannot enter,” she said. “You may leave.”

“Not without getting what I came for,” he growled. “Let me in.”

“I couldn’t if I wanted to. It’s impossible.” Usually at this point she would disappear and let him take out his anger on the unyielding building, but she wanted him to walk away so she could return to her quiet afternoon with Kieran. “Please go.”

He swore again and he fired. And she found out Kieran had not stayed where she’d left him.

If he could have touched her, maybe it would have worked. Maybe he would have knocked them both out of the way. But he hit empty air where she should have been and the bullet slammed through his solid heart and her intangible one.

She gasped and dropped beside him as he collapsed, already bleeding far too much.

“Kieran.” She pushed her hands against his chest and had to pull away and try again, making herself solid. “No. Oh, Kieran.”

With great effort, he caught her wrist and pulled one of her blood-stained hands to his cheek, catching her eye. “Hey,” he said, voice a strained rasp. “It’ll be okay. I promise. I’m sorry.”

And he disappeared.

She fell forward into empty space where she’d been leaning on him. Her hands landed in bloodied grass.

Then she remembered her audience, and she looked up at the shooter. He seemed almost as shocked as she felt. But he recovered first and raised his gun again.

She didn’t disappear quite fast enough. The bullet caught her shoulder. It only broke the skin, but it still hurt like nothing she remembered.

Usually she could move anywhere within her territory in an instant. Now she dripped like syrup through the air. But she made it into the library, into the small tower room where she slept. She slid down the wall and sat on the floor, holding her wounded shoulder, her blood mixing with Kieran’s. And she sobbed into her arms.


No. No. No.

Kieran spluttered as he broke through the water. He shouldn’t be here. He should be with Lina. The shooter was still there. And now he was a good hour away.

But what happened? Why did he fall right through her?

“Dead again?” Hope asked cheerfully as Kieran scrambled out of her lake, shaking water from his hair. Dying tended to put him in a bad mood. Usually he hung around to let Hope pester him out of the worst of it. Most people avoided sirens’ lakes and she got bored; letting her enjoy the unexpected company seemed the least he could do, since he didn’t visit enough of his own volition. But not today.

“I have to go.” He tugged off one boot and dumped water out of it.

“What happened?” Hope was draped in the branches of a tree, peering down at him.

The stupid boot would not go back on his foot. “I was with Lina. Some treasure hunter showed up, had a gun…”

“Is she okay?” Hope knew about Lina, because of course she had dragged that information out of him.

“I don’t know,” he said shortly. “He shot me first.” Apparently?

“Surely she ought to be. If angry treasure hunters with guns could hurt her, she’d have been in trouble a long time ago.”

“Maybe.” He hadn’t thought of that, but Hope had to have a point. … Right? “But…”

Hope’s eyes narrowed. “You haven’t told her, have you?”

He shook his head.

“You’re an idiot.”

Yeah, he was painfully aware. He gave up on the boot and instead pulled off the other and dumped them together by the edge of the lake. “I have to get back. Make sure she’s okay. Let her know…”

“You’re not dead.”

“Not permanently.”

“Go. Then come tell me all about it. The shareable parts, anyway.”

He didn’t even stop to roll his eyes at her.


Kieran.

The familiar sensation that tugged at Lina’s heart didn’t make sense. Of course he wasn’t here. So why did she feel as though he’d just stepped into her territory?

Maybe it was someone else and she only wanted to believe it was Kieran.

She tried to ignore the feeling. Without much – any – success. Then she heard his voice, spiked with worry, saying her name.

Whatever this was, she had to find out.

She tried to disappear and couldn’t. Her injured shoulder stuck, wanting to stay solid. She had to tug it with her, and it hurt.

But at last she made it outside.

And there stood Kieran.


Kieran stumbled back into Lina’s territory. He ran the whole way there, but he’d still been gone too long. He circled the library and found neither her nor the shooter, only their abandoned book and a patch of bloody grass.

“Lina?” he called. She had to be here; she couldn’t leave. If only he could get inside to look for her.

When she finally appeared, he was not ready for the sight. Her eyes were red, her cheeks streaked from tears. She clutched her shoulder. Blood was smeared up her arms, across her shirt, on her face. His? Hers? Both?

“Lina,” he said again, with something like relief. At least she was still here.

She stared, baffled, forehead crinkled. “Kieran?”

He took a step closer. “I’m back. It’s okay.”

Her mouth opened, but apparently she didn’t know what to say.

“I told you I’m cursed, too, but not how it works.” He edged closer as he spoke. “I can be killed. But I come back. Every time. I reappear in some nearby lake. That’s why I disappeared. I’m so sorry you didn’t know. But I’m fine now. I’m not hurt.”

Finally close enough, he slid his hands beneath her elbows. “It’s okay,” he repeated softly. But now, touching her, he wasn’t so sure. She felt… not quite there. Like she was flickering in and out, even though he could see her just fine. But when she leaned against him, she was there enough for him to put his arms around her.

“I thought you were gone,” she whispered.

“I know.”

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“I couldn’t let him hurt you.”

She straightened up, then held out one hand. Kieran reached to take it, and his fingers slid right through her palm. Just like when he tried to knock her away from the bullet. “He wouldn’t have,” she said. “I’m only solid when I want to be, and I can only keep it up so long. I should have explained before. But I… I like feeling real around you. It’s nice.”

“So… you’re not hurt?”

“… A little.” She showed him her shoulder, wincing as she pulled torn fabric away from a cut there. “You’d just disappeared, and I was distracted… I don’t think it’s bad? Not as bad as it should be.”

His fingers skimmed the skin around the injury and his jaw clenched. If that shooter knew what was good for him, he would never return. He was lucky Kieran’s desire to be here with Lina just outweighed his desire to track the man down and make him pay. “Is the bullet still in there?”

“It never was.”

He was quite prepared to be overprotective, but, “It doesn’t look serious,” he agreed.

“I feel weird though,” she said. “I’ve never been hurt since…” She waved vaguely at the library. “It’s harder to disappear and move around. It’s like… my shoulder gets stuck. But being solid is wearing me out quicker than usual.”

That provided more than enough fodder for being overprotective. “Let’s at least get this cleaned up,” he said. Then, hesitating just a beat first, he asked, “Can I stay until you feel better?”

“Yes, please.” Her voice broke, and he pulled her into his arms again. Everything else could wait until she stopped crying.

Posted in Writings

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Here is a Valentine’s Day-related superhero story I wrote a few days ago. (Yes, these characters eventually end up together.)


“This has been the most boring Valentine’s Day ever.”

The bank teller, her gaze focused on her computer, produced only the most uninterested and dismissive of sympathetic sounds imaginable, but Milla wasn’t going to let that stop her complaining.

“I’ve been running boring errands all day. This is the last of them – no offense. I don’t even have something to look forward to tonight to make it better. All my friends will be on dates. I had a date planned, and he called this morning to cancel because ‘something came up’. Right. See if I give him another chance. Canceling your date on Valentine’s Day for no good reason is only a slight step above standing someone up at a restaurant.”

The teller nodded distractedly, counting out bills to trade for the check Milla was cashing.

“What are you doing tonight?” Milla asked, wondering if a direct question would get some conversation out of the older woman.

“I-”

“EVERYBODY ON THE GROUND!”

Milla whirled and gaped at the three masked intruders rushing through the doors. One fired a couple shots into the ceiling, straight from his fingers, and Milla dropped to the floor, along with the tellers and one other customer.

The robbers conferred in low voices, then one of them headed farther into the bank. The vault, which Milla could see down a hallway, had closed with a bang, she supposed from an employee hitting an alarm, but the robber melted through the tiny cracks around it.

Milla pressed herself against the counter, her eyes darting back and forth between the remaining masked men. This stuff happened in real life?

“I want everyone along this wall,” the gunman barked, gesturing with his fingerguns to the wall opposite the vault hallway. The other customer began crawling over, and Milla heard movement from the tellers on the other side of the counter. When she hesitated, he pointed at her and bang! something skimmed her shoulder.

She yelped, mostly from surprise; the pain didn’t sink in until she started to move. She made it to the wall and collapsed there, hand pressed against her bleeding shoulder. Why did she choose the cream-colored sweater today?

The taciturn teller, next to her, asked, “Is this enough excitement for you?”

Milla stared at her in disbelief. Finally said, “I guess that depends on who shows up to rescue us.”

Several minutes passed in a bewildered haze. Warm wet blood seeped between Milla’s fingers while she watched the melting robber bring money out of the vault for the others to stuff into bags.

And then the building shook. Electricity crackled through the air. Milla’s mind flashed to the calendar of up-and-coming heroes that lived in her kitchen. “Oh my gosh,” she whispered – and found she couldn’t hear her own voice – an instant before help silently crashed through the front doors.

The calendar’s February page featured Ash Harker, and here he was in person, tall and terrifying and even more beautiful than his picture.

The bank robbers attempted to flee, but two of them simply smacked into each other, thrown off by the lack of noise. Milla didn’t know how Ash and his two younger interns functioned without hearing, but in only a few minutes, they had the three men handcuffed to the vault door. The handcuffs must have some power suppressor, because even the melty one stayed where they put him.

Milla’s hearing came back as Ash left his interns to watch the prisoners while he checked on all the people on the floor. He came straight toward her, asking, “Is anyone else hurt?” After a chorus of “no”s, he knelt in front of her. “Hi, I’m Ash.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

He gently moved her hand out of the way so he could see her injury. “What’s your name?”

“Oh. Milla.”

“Can you tell me what happened, Milla?”

“One of them shot at me. I think I didn’t move fast enough for him.”

“It doesn’t look deep. How does it feel?”

“I don’t know… It hurts, but… I don’t feel like I’m about to die or anything. How is it supposed to feel?”

A smile tugged at his mouth and the corners of his eyes. She liked that. He didn’t smile much in his pictures, but it did lovely things for his already lovely face. “That sounds about right. You are not about to die. Keep putting pressure on it, and someone should arrive to fix you up soon. After that you can tell us all about what happened.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

Ash moved down the line to talk to the bank’s manager, and from Milla’s side, her teller friend asked, “So?”

“What?” But before the lady could respond, Milla figured it out. “Oh. Yes. Plenty exciting. How long do you think I can take to give a statement so he has to stick around?”

Posted in Writings

You’ve Had it Too Long

Sometimes you just have to turn your characters into fairies so everything about their lives can be excessively overdramatic. Here is a dramatic little piece of an AU that I wrote recently.

The right beach at last. Myria stood at the edge of the tide, waves curling around her bare ankles and retreating, leaving her feet buried in sand. A breeze fluttered a dress around her knees, the filmy fabric blue like the ocean, blue like her eyes, like Kai’s eyes.

After so many years, Ash didn’t know what to say to her. She disappeared ages ago. Father let everyone assume she died, but Ash had never been quite sure. Only recently did he hear rumors that perhaps she had gone back to the ocean she loved and missed. He remembered her always being a bit translucent, but now he could see the horizon right through her. Maybe he had come just in time; soon she might fade altogether.

He spoke her name softly and she turned with delight. “Ash! You’ve come to see me!” And then she frowned. “But how did you know where I was?”

“I didn’t know. I found you.” Ash stepped closer to take her hands, ignoring the sea seeping into his boots. Her tiny fingers disappeared inside his sturdy ones. “I need your help.”

“But what could you need me for? I’m happy here.”

“I know. I wouldn’t have bothered you if it wasn’t important.” Ash gently squeezed her cold and fragile hands. “Do you know my father’s true name?”

“I do.”

“Will you tell me?”

She slid her hands out of his and drifted up the beach, toward a cave in the rocky cliffs that climbed toward distant snowy mountain heights. A driftwood tree formed a bench along the cliffs, and she sank slowly to a seat. “I can’t.”

“You can’t, or you won’t?”

“He trusted me with it. A name is not something to be shared, Ash.”

“I know.” Ash dropped to his knees in front of her. “But you don’t… He sent Kai away.”

“Kai?” Myria’s gaze sharpened, bored into his eyes, more present than he’d seen her yet. “What did he do to my boy?”

“Traded him in a bargain. Father got land. The Duke of Karokas got Kai.”

“Karokas?” She shook her head. “He was always an especially unkind one. Kai is too much like me to stand him long.”

“He is,” Ash agreed desperately. “And I need him. So much. Please. Help me save him. Help me get my brother back.”

She thought; he saw her thinking, her eyes darting around the beach in worried confusion. Then she picked up Ash’s arm and pushed up his long black sleeve. “He told me,” she whispered, “to never speak it to anyone but him, to never write it down. But I think, perhaps…”

With one finger, she traced firm letters against his bare skin. Ash closed his eyes to better soak them in. She did it a second time, and Ash breathed the syllables in his own whisper, opening his eyes to see her nod.

“Thank you, Myria. Thank you.”

“Bring my boy to see me, when it’s safe, will you?”

“I promise.”


Ash shook snow off his cloak and kicked it off his boots, leaving puddles outside the doors to Father’s courtroom.

“Did you find her?” Star whispered, gripping his arm.

Ash nodded.

“Did she know?” Blaze hissed on his other side.

Another nod.

They clung to him in silence, all staring at the closed door.

Ash took a breath. Straightened his shoulders. “I can do this,” he murmured to himself, and he stepped forward and shoved opened the doors.

Down the aisle he strode, between looming white pillars, between looming clusters of fae, toward the looming throne at the end of the massive room. “Ah, Ash,” Father said sarcastically. “Kind of you to grace us with your presence. You can tell us all what took you so long.”

His boots thudded on the marble floor, and his heart thudded in his chest, but steps and heartbeat were steady as he approached the throne. He gathered up all the years of heartache and humiliation into his courage and spoke them out in a voice that rang clearly through the room. “Alistair! I strip you of your title King of the Winter Court and claim it for my own. Step down from my throne.”

Disbelieving gasps filled the room behind him. Father stayed frozen, and Ash could feel his will resisting, the will that kept Ash in line his whole life.

No more.

“I said, step down from my throne, Alistair.

In slow jerks, Alistair stood, feet pulling him down the dais steps as Ash climbed past him, not sparing him the courtesy of a glance. Ash’s cloak swirled around him as he spun to face his – his – court. The gathered fae gazed at him with shock and with fear, from the nobility here to garner favor to the servants holding trays of wine.

But back by the doors, Star stood with both hands over her mouth, eyes shining with tears and delight. Blaze wore a grin that could have split his face in two.

Ash gave himself the moment to grin back at them.

Then he sat in the throne, grim again, and met Alistair’s eyes. “Now, Alistair, tell me the name of the Duke of Karokas.”

Posted in Life, Writings

NaNoWriMo – White Fences – Again – Report

This month I have written 33,581 words.

I’m not quite done for the day and will probably write another 500 or so, but clearly I’m not going to get to 50,000.

Right at the beginning of the month, a friend pointed out to me how stressed I seemed about the whole process. And I was. I’m not sure why. Clearly I’m capable. I have enjoyed the process before. But for some reason it felt more overwhelming than like an exciting challenge. So my friend wisely talked me into allowing myself let it go instead of forcing it and making myself unnecessarily stressed. I decided on 1,000 words a day instead, because that felt attainable but still productive, and assuming I finish today, I will have succeeded at that.

When I wrote that post about quitting things when you need to a couple weeks before November, I was apparently talking to myself and not listening.

I am a little sad to not have technically won. But I’ve still made progress, and I suppose this year winning for me meant letting myself back off.

And you know what? For the first time in several years at the end of November… I feel like I could write tomorrow.

Posted in Life, Writings

NaNoWriMo – White Fences – Again

It’s apparently time to write 50,000 words in a month again. Oh, boy.

I am working on the same story as last year. (Here’s last year’s post if you want to read about it.) I did not make a whole lot of progress on it in the last eleven months, unfortunately, and it would not be good for me to start something different. I did get everything I’d already written typed up though, and I still like what I’ve done. I also managed to fill the notebook I’d been using so I can start fresh with a new one this year.

Since I didn’t have to do a lot of plotting prep or the like, I’ve tried to prepare a few other things to free up time in November. I’ve written some blog posts in advance (including this one; hi, future!). I did some extra church secretary stuff. I prepped a few weeks of Bible class. I collected a pile of books that should be easy to read so I don’t have to feel like I’m stuck reading one book forever while writing eats a lot of my reading time.

There’s so much plot left to this story. So much. It would great to finish it this month, but I have my doubts.

I guess we’ll see! Wish me luck!

Posted in Writings

Some Flangst

I’m currently very annoyed at the complete lack of emotion in the book I’m reading. Thankfully I’m almost done and will be able to move on with my life soon. In the meantime, I’m going to share a fluffy/angsty one-shot I managed to write all in one go the other night that I think contains more emotion than that whole book.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, perhaps you recall Blaze, one of the characters in a story I shared a couple years ago. Here he’s all grown up and has a girlfriend. I think they’re pretty cute. (And fairly shippy, don’t be too scandalized. XD)

I don’t have a song to go with this one. Or a title. So… jump right in, I guess.

Jen’s visit had been planned long before all Blaze’s siblings decided they wanted to tag along on Gavin’s week-long business trip to the Hamptons, but that didn’t stop her from feeling guilty as she watched Blaze bury his face in Ash’s shoulder at the airport, trying not to cry.

“We could have rescheduled,” she said when Blaze got back in the car. “Or gone with them.”

He met her gaze with teary eyes and said, “I want to spend time with you. I do.”

She appreciated how much she believed him.

And after the airport, he was good for a while, happy and energetic and himself. But she could see the shift when they hit the fourth day and ticked over into the longest he’d ever been separated from all his siblings. And she didn’t think he’d been sleeping well in his bedroom alone.

It wasn’t too much work to persuade him she was ready for a quiet evening in. He let her pick the movie, and she chose something slow-paced. Turned off most of the lights in the living room. Sat in the corner of the couch and held out her arms to demand a hug so Blaze would lean on her. Her scheming paid off when Blaze ended up fast asleep with his head in her lap. She buried her fingers in his excellent hair and watched the movie herself, satisfied.

The credits rolled, the menu screen returned, and she muted the TV so the music loop wouldn’t drive her crazy. With one hand she scrolled through Pinterest on her phone, absentmindedly playing with Blaze’s hair with the other.

Blaze stirred restlessly in his sleep, and Jen looked down to find his expression distraught. Before she decided if she should do something about that, he was awake, searching his surroundings with wide scared eyes, then reaching up to hide his face in his hands after he saw her. Colors from the TV flickered over his skin.

“What happened?” Jen asked, putting down her phone so she could move one hand to his shoulder and keep one in his hair. He’d been so relaxed, but his muscles had gone all tense.

“Bad dream,” he mumbled, voice a little choked.

“Does that happen a lot?”

“Not as much as it used to. Mostly when… when none of my siblings are around.”

Jen’s heart hurt as she stroked his shoulder. He chose to stay with her, knowing this might happen. “What do you dream about?” she asked quietly.

She felt him take a deep breath. “Usually it’s Ash getting shot. Sometimes Kai and Star, too. And Dad is standing there doing nothing about it.”

Jen hated hated hated that Blaze had the memories to fuel that. But she loved that he would tell her these things when she asked. “Why don’t you call one of them and remind yourself that they’re okay?”

After a pause, Blaze dug his phone out of the couch cushions. Jen expected him to get up, but he stayed where he was while he dialed Star. “I miss you,” he said when she answered.

The short conversation was only trivial, but Blaze’s voice sounded steadier by the time he and his sister exchanged I love yous and hung up. He tossed his phone onto the coffee table, and they watched it slide almost to the other edge. Then he said, “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” Jen asked.

“Because I’m pathetic. I love you this much, and I still can’t spend four days with just you without having nightmares because I miss my family.”

“Do you want to know a secret?”

“Sure,” Blaze said wearily.

“Men who love their families are hot.”

This got the surprised laugh she wanted.

“I don’t think you’re pathetic. I think you’re brave, and I love that you want to be here with me anyway.”

“I do. I just want them here, too.”

“Nothing wrong with that.” Jen kissed the tip of her finger and pressed it against his nose. “Your room has all those bunkbeds, right?”

Blaze looked up at her. “Yeah.”

“Then I’m going to sleep in one so you don’t have to be alone.”

He closed his eyes. “Thank you.”

“We’ll be like kids and have a sleepover. I’m guessing you never did one of those, so I’ll inform you that they consist of staying up way too late giggling about people you think are attractive.”

“Hmm,” he said. “Well, there’s this real cute girl who picks up five movies from the library every other Friday…”

“Great, you’ll have to tell me all about her. But you’ll have to let me up first.”

“Maybe later.” His eyes were still closed, but there was a smile on his face now.

“Fine, I can wait.” Jen picked up her phone. “Gives me time to browse my Pinterest board of attractive actors.”

Posted in Writings

Superroommates

I don’t know if I’ve talked about Superroommates on my blog before. Several years ago, my friend GG and I encountered this prompt:

We loved it and wanted to write it. So we did.

Or, we are. It’s ongoing. The document was created in 2017 and is currently at 59 pages.

But we did get far enough that there’s a slightly shorter shareable version that wraps up the first plotline arc reasonably well. It’s pretty great if we do say so ourselves. So if you’d like to read it, please ask.

Anyway. Today while looking through my stories, I came across this one-shot with the characters. It happens after they have figured out what’s going on, and I think it makes for a fun, brief introduction to their dynamic. Enjoy.

If I couldn’t, three times a day,
be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee,
in my anguish I will turn into
a shriveled-up roast goat.
(Please appreciate this cantata’s full lyrics here: http://emmanuelmusic.org/notes_translations/translations_cantata/t_bwv211.htm)

After a long night of work and some unexpected superheroing on his way home, Ryan wasn’t exactly prepared to walk through his front door and find Devin facedown on the floor. He stopped and stared for a moment before asking, “Devin?”

“Hmm.”

Well, he was alive. “You okay?”

“No,” said Devin, voice muffled by carpet. “We’re out of coffee.”

Ryan looked toward their kitchen, where he could see their various coffee makers and the open cupboard above them, a cupboard with a jarringly empty shelf. “Huh.”

Devin turned his head to the side. “I’m a failure. How could I let this happen?”

“I let it happen, too,” Ryan pointed out.

“I can’t start my day without coffee.”

“Devin. You work at a coffee shop. Make yourself some when you get there.”

“Can’t. Too far.”

“Did you get any sleep last night?”

“Mmmmm, not much.”

That explained it. Well, partially. Ryan picked up a mug from an end table and examined its contents. A couple inches of black liquid remained. “I didn’t finish this before I left for work. I could heat it up for you. Would that be sufficient to get you out the door?”

Devin picked his head up. “That sounds terrible. But maybe.”

“Fine.” Ryan stepped over his roommate to get to the kitchen. “But I’m not bringing it to you. You’ll have to drag yourself to the microwave somehow.”

“If I must.” Devin dropped his head onto his forearm, deflated again, but when the microwave was running, he said, “You’re my favorite superhero,” and Ryan laughed as he headed to his room.